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Baby tooth Decay: Do baby teeth have to be filled?

Why put your child through an unpleasant dental appointment or spend money unnecessarily when not all baby teeth with cavities have to be filled. In this article learn the pros and cons of filling baby teeth and how dentists decide when to fill cavities in baby teeth. 

Small cavities in baby teeth may not need to be filled depending on the age of the child and when the tooth will be lost.  

If your child has a cavity in one or more of their baby teeth, ask your dentist how long it will be before they lose the tooth.  Teeth that will be lost in a year or less should usually not be filled.  

Age of the child

Molar cavities in children under age 5 almost always need to be filled. They will have these teeth for a few years.

Not treating these cavities could result in a toothache or lead to the decay being too big to repair or the tooth needing to be extracted.

baby tooth decay

Cavities in older children don't always have to be filled. Your dentist should look at an X-Ray to determine how long it will be before the baby tooth is lost.  

Baby teeth that are already starting to resorb because the permanent tooth is coming in often don't have to be treated.  

Baby teeth chart

Refer to this baby teeth chart to see the age range for losing baby teeth. The chart is helpful but because there is a big range for the normal time a baby tooth should be lost, an X-Ray of your child's teeth is the best way to predict when it will be lost and if a cavity has to be filled.

Exceptions to the rule

Some permanent teeth are congenitally missing.  This occurs a small percentage of the time. The most common teeth to be genetically missing are upper lateral incisors and lower second premolars.

When permanent teeth are missing the baby teeth should be maintained as long as possible. Baby teeth can last many years when they are well maintained.

The only way to know if any permanent teeth are missing is to have a panorex x-ray taken.  

A panorex shows the entire upper and lower jaws and all the teeth that are erupted and all the teeth that are still developing but not yet visible.  

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